Candidates, the media and Albertans from all parts of the province waited patiently for votes to trickle in during Monday’s provincial general election.
One by one, they did. At least for the first two hours of the night. Then finally, a breakthrough – and a UCP majority government.
Still, the delay in vote counts left many with questions and even more criticizing Elections Alberta for the laborious delay.
On Tuesday, LWC asked for a detailed explanation of the delay. What kept Albertans waiting until late Monday for election results?
Ultimately, it was summed up in one line of their email response: “Managing all of this activity takes time and we prioritize the accuracy of our reporting over speed.”
Elections Alberta provided a general response that a returning office is a busy place on election night.
“Office staff are supporting their voting places with the count, receiving results called in from locations and entering them, completing the count of special ballots, mobile voting and generating results from the tabulator, responding to candidate and scrutineer questions and concerns, and receiving supplies back from voting places,” read their response.
This year, however, was the first time returning offices were also responsible for the voter anywhere counts. They said that in 2019, these ballots were shipped to Elections Alberta for a count – a process they said delayed final election results for 2.5 days.
“Entering results for vote anywhere, however, is time-consuming. Every location provides results for all 349 candidates,” Elections Alberta wrote.
“Before these counts are reported, they are generated from the tabulators, transcribed onto Statement of Votes and then input into our results site. Every stage of this process is verified for accuracy.”
They said electronic tabulators were never connected to a network for a count. It was a manual process to verify and enter the results.
The delay created election night questions
TV broadcasters appeared flummoxed at times; they had to fill airtime that would normally be analysis of regular intervals of votes coming in. Instead, they had to fill time with additional guests and added guess time about what one or two votes from one or two polling stations really meant.
It also saw rise to conspiracy theories almost immediately.
Political strategist Stephen Carter wasn’t kind to the handling of the vote tally by Elections Alberta.
“They have run two separate techniques, tactics for voting. One in the pre-election period, the advance polls, and one on election day. You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?” Carter said.
“They’re going to be markedly different, right?”
Carter said Elections Alberta should just spend the money and do the entire election with tabulators or have just hand-counted ballots. He said you can’t have two different methods, especially with election-voting conspirators running amok.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she too was waiting patiently for results on election night. She said she was “amazed” at how the count was being done.
“I’m not sure who came up with this process, but it was strange,” she said.
“I would absolutely encourage the province to look at what we did in the 2021 election and make sure we can replicate something more efficient like that.”
The City of Calgary and other municipalities ran a tabulator election in 2021. It provided prompt results, but not without its own hiccups that generated baseless conspiracy theories on social media. The Local Authorities Election Act allows their use in municipal elections.
Elections Alberta said the Elections Act forbids the use of tabulators on a provincial Election Day. The advance voting directive enables their use only for the purpose of the vote anywhere capabilities and the voter assist terminals.
“To use them on Election Day would require a change to the Election Act,” they said.
It also allows for full reporting of these results on election night, they said.